The purpose of this and the following chapter is to show how the compassionate spirituality of the buddha-body of emanation manifests externally, out of emptiness, in form of the seed-syllables, the significance being that it is from these vibrant seed-syllables that the fully manifest visualisations of buddha-mind, mantra sounds of buddha-speech and sealing hand-emblems indicative of buddha-body all subsequently emerge.
Through the enlightened intention of all the tathägatas, a cyclical garland of seed-syllables emerges from the indestructible buddha-body, -speech and -mind in order to reveal the sameness and great perfection of actual reality (v.1).
The commentator, Longchen Rabjampa, at this point elucidates the general significance of the garland of syllables. The Sanskrit akêara (syllable) is defined as the "unchanging essence" or the "true nature of mind", which sustains the buddha-body, -speech and -mind within the energy channels of the subtle body. The basic Sanskrit syllables comprise sixteen vowels and thirty-four consonants. However in the context of the present maôçala, one hundred and three seed-syllables are enumerated, namely those of the forty-two peaceful deities which are located in the heart, those of the fifty-eight wrathful deities which are located in the skull, and the seed-syllables OÆ, Äÿ, HÜÆ, which are respectively located in the crown, throat and heart centres and which have the function of purifying the six mundane seed-syllables that generate birth among the six classes of living beings. All one hundred and three seed-syllables of this garland emanate from the uncreated syllable A and emerge as a cloud-mass from which the maôçala is visually generated. Yet they abide naturally within all sentient beings.
Apart from their natural occurence within the subtle physical body, these seed-syllables are also associated with the diverse meditational deities of the maôçala, visualised within their celestial palaces, because it is from these seed-syllables that the fully manifest forms of the deities emerge during the generation and perfection stages of meditation. Then, from another perspective, the seed-syllables are considered to be miraculous emanations in the maôçalas of the buddha-body of perfect resource (sambhogakäya), purposefully acting on behalf of sentient beings, and also phonic syllables that are intoned in the course of mantra recitation, which purposefully effects the spiritual accomplishment of the secret mantras.
The cyclical garland of syllables is presented initially as an object of meditation from the standpoint of both the generation and perfection stages, as well as from that of the ensuing four rites of enlightened activity. All spiritual accomplishments are said to derive from this cyclical garland of syllables because they are the causal basis of the pristine cognition of buddha-mind (vv.2-3). At this point, the actual emanation of the garland of syllables occurs, beginning with the syllable A, and it visibly resonates throughout the world-systems of living beings (vv.4-5).
The tathägatas then expound the inner meaning of the syllables, referring to the uncreated syllable A on the level of the buddha-body of reality, to the forty-two syllables which emerge in conjunction with it on the level of the buddha-body of perfect resource, and to the words and letters which they form on the level of the buddha-body of emanation (vv.6-10). The maôçalas of buddha-body, -speech and -mind are all gathered in the forty-five syllables, ie. the forty-two seed-syllables of the peaceful deities combined with their three punctuation marks (v.11). The true nature of mind is successively identified with the uncreated syllable A, with the spontaneously present forty-two syllables and with their symbolic written forms in which there is no duality of appearance and emptiness, corresponding respectively to the three buddha-bodies (vv.12-14)
Then there follows a detailed analysis of each seed-syllable in turn, preceded by the three punctuation symbols which demaracate the seed-syllables (v.15). The forty-two seed-syllables in this context actually become manifest in the following sequence: That of Samantabhadrï (v.16), those of the five male buddhas beginning with Vairocana (v.17), those of the five female buddhas beginning with Äkäâadhätviâvarï (v.18), those of the inner male bodhisattvas, beginning with Kêitigarbha and ending with the gatekeeper Yamäntaka (v.19), those of the inner female bodhisattvas beginning with Läsyä and ending with the gatekeeper Mahäbala (v.20), those of the outer male bodhisattvas beginning with Maitreya and ending with the gatekeeper Hayagrïva (v.21), those of the outer female bodhisattvas and female gatekeepers beginning with Dhüpä (v.22), those of Samantabhadra and the six sages (v.23), and finally those of Amötakuôçalin and the glow of the wrathful deities (v.24). However, it is emphasised that this cyclical mass of syllables abides primordially as the essence of buddha-body and pristine cognition (v.25).
Finally, there is a summary which interprets the emergence of the wheel of syllables as an expression of the buddhas’ emanational nature, as a presence within the subtle physical body, where they are the causal basis for the attainment of buddhahood, and as objects of meditation according to the paths of liberation and skilful means (vv.26-27).
CHAPTER FIVE: MEDITATIVE STABILITY THAT ATTAINS THE MAGICAL NET
The purpose of this chapter is to disclose how spiritual attainments emerge from the cyclical garland of syllables.
At this juncture, the maôçala of meditational deities inherent in the seed-syllables is described as a magical emanation (sgyu ‘phrul), in which skilful means and discriminative awareness are without duality, and the sequence of meditative attainments corresponding to this cloud-mass of syllables is then presented (v.1).
Spiritual accomplishments are to be attained in the following sequence: The true nature of mind is revealed as the basis of spiritual accomplishment (v.2); the supreme accomplishment of buddhahood is perfectly present in all maôçalas because they unite the maôçala of magical emanation (sgyu ’phrul) or seed-syllables in the maôçala of the net (drva ba) or discriminative awareness (v.3); the ordinary spiritual attainments are associated with the four rites of enlightened activity (v.4); the attainment known as the consummation of the five elements then ensues (v.5); along with the eight lesser rituals, including exorcism and attraction (v.6). All these meditative attainments are said to emerge in the manner of light from darkness, like the alchemical transmutation of iron into gold, or like the cure of an efficacious medication (v.7).
Now, there are five prerequisites for yogins seeking this spiritual attainment that accords with the cloud-mass of syllables: They are required to make offerings to their spiritual teacher, to clearly realise the meditations pertaining to the deities and their seed-syllables, to undertake the corresponding commitments, to recite the corresponding mantras correctly, and to securely seal the practice by enacting the corresponding hand-gestures (v.8). Thereby the essence of spiritual accomplishment will be attained (v.9).
As far as the actual meditative stability or skilful means which brings about such attainments is concerned: initially there is the meditative stability in the cyclical garland of seed-syllables (v.10). This entails meditation on discriminative awareness which cultivates the non-referential ultimate truth and non-dual pristine cognition associated with the buddha-body of reality (vv.11-12) and meditation on skilful means which cultivates the generation and perfection stages associated with the buddha-body of form, securely sealing the display of pristine cognition in the seal of primordial buddhahood (v.13). By way of a synopsis, the text emphasises that supreme accomplishment, the nature of Samantabhadra, is attained through these meditative stabilities and through their ancillary applications of mantra recitation and sealing hand-gestures (v.14).
CHAPTER SIX: EMERGENCE OF THE MAòÇALA
The purpose of this and the following two chapters is to project the maôçala of buddha-mind that is visualised through meditative stability as emerging from the cyclical garland of seed-syllables, along with its aspects— the maôçalas of buddha-speech and buddha-body, which are symbolised respectively by mantra recitation and sealing hand-gestures.
The focus here is on the emergence of the maôçala of meditational deities who are to be visualised by means of meditative stability that accords with the volition of the tathägatas (v.1).
The commentator, Longchen Rabjampa, at this point includes an extensive overview concerning the term maôçala. The Sanskrit maôçala is generally defined as a central deity encircled by a retinue, but more specifically classified according to the maôçalas of the ground, path and result. The maôçala of the ground is the atemporal presence of the mundane world and its inhabitants as primordial buddhahood. The maôçala of the path includes those symbolic maôçalas which are drawn on cotton, or with coloured powders, or laid out schematically with focal points and flower-clusters prominent. Yet it also refers to the maôçalas of genuine buddha-body, -speech and -mind which are to be attained through meditative stability, as well as those of the supporting celestial palace, the meditational deities supported within it, and their non-dual pristine cognition. The maôçala of the result comprises the effortless, spontaneous presence of the five maôçalas of buddha-body, -speech, -mind, -attributes and -activities.
The maôçalas of ground, path and result all emanate from the cyclical garland of seed-syllables. Among them, the natural and spontaneous maôçala of the ground is that in which the elements, psycho-physical components and dissonant mental states of unenlightened beings are primordially present as the female buddhas, the male buddhas and the pristine cognitions respectively (v.2).
The maôçala of the path which is the focus of the yogin’s meditative stability comprises the actual maôçala with its celestial palace (v.3), ornaments (v.4), teaching-thrones (v.5), and meditational deities (vv.6-7), along with their symbolic hand-held implements (v.8), body-colours (v.9), and general appearance (v.10), as well as the efulgence of light rays that they emit (v.11). Yet it also refers to the fruitional result that is achieved through this attainment, namely, the resultant buddha-body of form (rüpakäya) which arises from the body of reality (v.12) and the consequent illusion-like enlightened activity (v.13) which it perfoms on behalf of ordinary beings, pious attendants, hermit buddhas, and bodhisattvas (vv.14-17). Consequently, living beings are liberated, either through the causal paths which gradually refine obscurations (v.18), or through the resultant paths and levels associated with the indivisibility and sponteneity of the five buddha-bodies (vv.19-22). In this way, the maôçala of the path radiantly emanates throughout all world-systems (v.23).
The maôçala of the result is then described as the non-dual pristine cognition without objective or subjective referent, which emerges fully manifest and radiant in the context of this maôçala of meditative stability (vv. 24-25). The final verse may also be interpreted from the standpoints of ground, path or result individually.
CHAPTER SEVEN: ABSORPTION OF THE MAòÇALA AND THE SECRET MANTRAS
The purpose of this chapter is to present the maôçala of the secret mantras of buddha-speech, which is an aspect of the aforementioned maôçala of meditative stability. Once the visualised maôçala has been emanated through meditative stability, the secret mantras then emerge from the indestructible buddha-body, -speech and -mind of all the tathägatas in order to disclose the maôçala of buddha-speech (v.1).
The actual mantras are enunciated in the following sequence: Those which visually generate the maôçala palace (v.2) and the meditational deities within it (vv.3-8), followed by those which invite and absorb the genuine deities into the visualisation (v.9), and make offerings to them (v.10). A prayer for spiritual accomplishment ensues (v.11). Consequently, the mantra syllables resonate throughout the world-systems (v.12).
More generally, the inner significance of buddha-speech is then clarified and established through an exposition of its inexpressible essence (v.17), its inconceivability (v.18), its originally pure abiding nature (v.19), its apparitional nature (v.20), and its non-deviation from the expanse of actual reality despite its diverse manifestations as the teachings of the nine vehicles (v.21). In fact, the indestructible buddha-speech discernibly manifests through its disposition of compassionate spirituality for the sake of living beings (v.22), but there is a paradox: it remains essentially unspoken while being ostensibly spoken (v.23).
CHAPTER EIGHT: CONSECRATION OF ALL LIMBS OF THE BODY AS THE MAòÇALA AND EMERGENCE OF THE GESTURES OF SEALING
The purpose of this chapter is to disclose the maôçala of the hand-gestures of sealing and their symbolic hand-held emblems, which are indicative of buddha-body. This, like the previous chapter, is considered to be an aspect of the aforementioned maôçala of meditative stability. At the outset then, the tathägatas, having divulged the maôçala of secret mantras and its blessings, consecrate the limbs of the body as a maôçala of meditational deities (v.1).
The maôçala of sealing hand-gestures comprises those of the ground, path and result. The first indicates that all phenomena, manifestly perfect in the Magical Net (sgyu ‘phrul drva ba), are sealed primordially and spontaneously by Samantabhadra, in the seal of supreme enlightenment (v.2).
The sealing hand-gestures of the path are then said to emerge in three successive phases: Firstly, the causal basis for their emergence is the hand-gesture known as "the indestructible palms" (rdo rje thal mo), according to which the seed-syllables of the male and female buddhas located respectively on the finger-tips of the right and left hands are joined together, giving rise to the sealing hand-emblems of the various deities (v.3). Secondly, the all-embracing hand-gesture (spyi’i phyag rgya) is executed by joining the index finger of the right hand with the middle finger of the left hand, and the remaining fingers are also joined together in pairs, indicating that the central male and female deities of the maôçala are united, along with their surrounding deities, and giving rise to the supreme bliss of spiritual accomplishment (v.4). Thirdly, the various hand-held emblems (phyag mtshan) indicative of the diverse deities of the maôçala then become manifest from their respective seed-syllables through the hand-gesture of the "indestructible fist" (rdo rje khu tshur, vv. 5-19).
The sealing hand-gestures of the result refer to the natural seal, which is the trrue nature of mind, the abiding nature of reality (v.20), and to those seals associated with provisional and conclusive results. In the course of meditative experience and feast-offering ceremonies there are provisional hand-gestures of sealing which are made, whereby the limbs of the central deity are emanated as the forty-two peaceful deities (v.21), and subsequently as the thousand buddhas (v.22), twenty-one thousand buddhas (v.23) and even inconceivable buddhas (v.24). By contrast, the conclusive seal of buddha-body securely acts on behalf of living beings through its diverse manifestations (v.25) and the diverse teachings of the nine vehicles (v.26). Though unified in the nature of the body of pristine cognition (v.27), the conclusive seal assumes indefinite appearances for the sake of trainee practitioners (v.28) and it gathers within the abiding nature of reality all physical movements (v.29).
CHAPTER NINE: SECRET COMMITMENTS OF THE INDESTRUCTIBLE ARRAY
The purpose of this chapter is to show how the aforementioned maôçala of meditative stability and its aspects of mantra recitation and sealing hand-gestures are made manifest by means of the symbolic maôçala of images, enabling empowerments to be conferred.
Having revealed the maôçala of meditative stability and its aspects, the Great Joyous One (dgyes pa chen po) who is the Supreme Embodiment of Samantabhadra and Samantabhadrï combined then becomes equipoised in the meditation of "the sequence of empowerments which accord with the various maôçalas of images", and reveals the following teaching in order to manifest the aforementioned maôçalas for the sake of trainee practitioners (v.1).
Longchen Rabjampa includes a very extensive overview at this juncture, concerning the construction of symbolic maôçalas and the conferral of empowerment through them. The discussion refers to the intricate stages of maôçala construction, the generation of the deities within the symbolic maôçala through meditative stability, and the offerings and mantra recitations which are then to be made. Empowerments are subsequently conferred as follows: After burnt offerings have been performed as a preliminary purification, the student enters the maôçala and receives empowerment, thereby undertaking to meditate through the generation and perfection stages until the result known as the rank of the four kinds of awareness-holder (vidyädhara) is achieved.
This chapter presents the natural maôçala of the body of the female and male consorts— in which those of highest potential are empowered, and the symbolic maôçala constructed of coloured powders in which those of lower potential are empowered.
As far as the maôçala of the female consort is concerned, its location is revealed to be the secret or sexual centre of the female consort (v.2) and this is considered in terms of its dimensions (v.3), the pitching of the maôçala lines which purify her mental continuum (v.4), and the celestial palace and symbolic seal which are visualised to be drawn within this maôçala (vv.5-6). Offerings are prepared, especially those associated with the female deities of the maôçala which generate bliss (v.7). Burnt offerings are made as a preliminary purification (vv.8-9), followed by the relative and ultimate offerings of meditative stability (vv.10-12), and the secret offerings of skilful means and discriminative awareness which generate supreme bliss. Thereby, all the buddhas and sentient beings are provisionally delighted by the display of inner radiance free from conceptual elaboration, and buddhahood is conclusively attained (vv.13-16).
Once the master who confers empowerment has entered the maôçala (v.17), the student is urged to enter and receive empowerment with an attitude of total renunciation which purifies broken commitments (vv.18-19). The actual empowerments are then conferred in the following order: the ten empowerments of beneficence (phan pa’i dbang bcu), followed by the five empowerments of ability (nus pa’i dbang lnga), while the three higher empowerments of profundity (zab dbang gsum) are implicit in the disclosure of this very maôçala (v.20).
There is also, however, another tradition according to which the higher empowerments are received in the maôçala of the secret or sexual centre of the male consort (v. 21).
The symbolic maôçala of colour powders, in which those of lower potential are empowered, is materially constructed on a small, intermediate or large scale (vv.22-24). It is actually consecrated through the generation of the visualised form of the meditational deity, known as the Being of Commitment (samayasattva), after which an invitation is made to the actual meditational deity, known as the Being of Pristine Cognition (jñänasattva) to enter, and these two are then absorbed without duality (vv.25-27). Consequently, provisional accomplishments such as the four rites of enlightened activity and the complete array of supreme accomplishments associated with buddha-body, -speech and -mind are attained in order that all beings may benefit (vv.28-30).
Having received empowerment, the trainee will swiftly become accomplished by persevering through skilful means in the five aspects of meditative stability, the five prerequisites for meditation practice and the five aspects of attainment advocated by the mantra-texts (vv.30-31). In these ways he or she will then achieve the provisional results as an awareness-holder (v.32) and the conclusive result of buddhahood (vv.33-36).
The chapter ends with a brief synopsis concerning the nature of the faith or devotion required if those on whom empowerments are conferred are to become accomplished. Conversely, if empowerments are conferred on those lacking faith or those who are degenerate in their commitments, the outcome will be negative (v.37).
CHAPTER TEN: CONFERRAL OF EMPOWERMENTS
The purpose of this chapter is to disclose the actual empowerments that are conferred in respect of the aformentioned maôçalas. Having revealed all the maôçalas in which empowerment is to be conferred, Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then enters the meditative stability called "the conferral of the king" in order to express the actual empowerments (v.1).
The three empowerments of profundity, namely, those of secrecy (gsang dbang), discriminating pristine cognition (shes rab yes shes kyi dbang) and word and meaning (tshig don gyi dbang), are conferred on the basis of the maôçala of the female consort. At the outset, the appropriate visualisations should be made, the master and student should enter into the maôçala, the lower empowerments should be successfully conferred, and the female consort should be consecrated in the appropriate manner (v.2).
The lower empowerments which are the first to be conferred comprise those of ability and beneficence. The five inner empowerments of ability are those of the listener, the meditator, enlightened activity, the expositor, and the king of indestructible reality, which are respectively associated with Ratnasambhava, the Central Deity (ie. Vairocana/ Akêobhya), Amoghasiddhi, Amitäbha, and all five enlightened families together (vv.3-7). Without receiving these, no progression through the secret mantras is possible (v.8).
The ten outer empowerments of beneficence are those of the crown-ornament, the diadem, the rosary, the armour, the victory banner, the seals, the parasol, the vase, food and drink, and the five nectars. These are said to confer excellence, to remove obstacles and to reveal the indivisibility of cyclic existence and nirväôa (v. 9).
In brief, those who have received all the empowerments possess the means to achieve swiftly the provisional and conclusive results (v.10).
CHAPTER ELEVEN: MAòÇALA OF THE FEAST OFFERINGS
The purpose of this and the following two chapters is to present the paths through which the aformentioned maôçalas of the ground are to be attained. In particular, chapters eleven and twelve concern the generation stage of meditation (utpattikrama) which reverses common attachments, while chapter thirteen reveals the perfection stage (sampannakrama) in which the essential meaning of the practice is penetrated.
Having conferred empowerment in the maôçala of the ground, Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then enters the meditative stability called "the king or transformation of the Magical Net", which is the coalescence of skilful means and discriminative awareness, in order to reveal the generation stage of skilful means.
As a preparation, there are four axioms of correct view which clarify the maôçala of the spontaneous ground which is to be realised through the generation stage. These are known as single basis, modality of seed-syllables, blessing and direct perception, and they respectively concern the primordial emptiness that gives rise to cyclic existence and nirväôa, the indivisibility of appearances and emptiness, the innate purity of all things in the primordial maôçala, and the realisation that all phenomena are the deities of the maôçala (v.2).
The actual experiential cultivation of the path has two aspects, namely, the discernment that all appearances are pristine cognition and the display of the maôçala of feast offerings.
According to the former, all subjective psycho-physical components are discerned as the maôçalas of peaceful and wrathful male deities (v.3), all objective elements are discerned as the maôçalas of the female consorts of the peaceful and wrathful deities (v.4), and all their offerings, ornaments and so forth are discerned as the maôçala of the indivisible display of the male and female deities (v.5). In particular, the indivisibility and natural purity of the paths of skilful means and "liberation", which employ the secret offerings, are discerned as follows:
The path of skilful means (thabs lam) concerns the maôçala of great bliss in which sexual union is naturally pure. In general, there are three kinds of mudrä or female yogic partner— the devï aged twelve, the näginï aged sixteen and those of inferior genus aged twenty, who are respectively the consorts of buddha-mind, buddha-speech and buddha-body (v.6). In particular there are six types of female yogic partner, known as the lotus, conch, marked, doe, elephant and diverse types, each of which is associated with one of the six different enlightened families and classified according to superior, mediocre and inferior characteristics or signs. The signs are said to be clearest in girls under the age of twenty.
As for the development of pristine cognition in this path of skilful means, there are the preliminary practices, namely: ritual service (bsnyen pa) which induces bliss by means of relaxation, dietetics and medicinal elixirs (rasäyana), massage (bskum nye), conversation and so forth; rites of attainment (sgrub pa) which require the male and female yogins to be visualised as the male and female consorts and to engage in foreplay; and rites of great attainment (sgrub chen) which require the union of the male and female consorts (v.7). The actual foundation or main practice then concerns the four delights (dga’ ba bzhi) which are experienced through the descent of seminal energy through the central channel of the subtle body (v.8), and the pristine cognition experienced through the subsequent re-ascending of this seminal energy (v.9). The result of the practice of the path of skilful means includes supreme accomplishments such as the level of Samantabhadra and the buddha-body of indestructible reality, and common accomplishments which are endowed with supernormal cognitive powers (v. 10).
The path of "liberation" (sgrol lam) which forcibly transfers the consciousness of negative beings to a higher realm of rebirth in order to compassionately thwart their negative intent is also discerned to be naturally pure. There are ten objects or "fields of compassion" suitable for the application of such "liberating" techniques, including those who are hostile to the Three Precious Jewels (triratna) and spiritual teachers, those who misinterpret the commitments and those trapped in evil existences (v.11). The actual skilful means which effect this "liberation" are meditative stability, mantra recitation combined with hand-gestures of sealing, and the burnt offering of an effigy, which are respectively for yogins of superior, mediocre and inferior potential (v.12). The benefit of this practice is that beings destined for rebirth in lower realms are "liberated" and transferred to higher realms (v.13).
The paths of skilful means and "liberation" are discerned to be naturally pure because in each case, the maôçala of magical pristine cognition is untainted by the defects associated with past actions (karma) (v.14).
Secondly, the experiential cultivation of the generation stage of meditation sets the aforementioned refinements of pure view within the context of the feast offering ceremony. The Sanskrit term gaôacakra is defined as "a feast or assembly of the extraordinary supports, persons and implements associated with the deliberate practice of the secret mantras". Now, the yogin who discerns through the axioms of the three purities and four samenesses that all phenomena comprising the mundane world and its inhabitants are the feast-offering of Samantabhadra, primordial buddhahood itself, will swiftly attain supreme spiritual accomplishment (v.15-16).
The diverse modes of the feast-offerings which emerge from the feast-offering of Samantabhadra are classified according to the number of participants or the kinds of maôçala they form. Those of the peaceful deities may form five, three or a single pair of male and female yogins, while those of the wrathful deities may form their own distinctive clusters. Altogether, there may be a hundred or even a multitude of participating yogins and yoginïs (vv.17-20).
Feast-offerings may also be classified according to the diverse outer, inner and secret hand-implements which the participants hold, the diverse deities who confer accomplishments in the course of the ceremonies, and the provisions of merit and pristine cognition that are gathered within them.
As far as the actual procedures for the performance of the feast offerings associated with the peaceful and wrathful deities are concerned: The participants should enter the assembly according to the correct ritual sequence. This means that the maôçala of the single cluster is entered first of all (vv.21-22), followed by the maôçala of three clusters (v.23), then the maôçala of five clusters (v.24) and then the maôçala of indestructible expanse (v.25). On the basis of the symbolic maôçala which is constructed in accordance with these clusters, suitable offerings and implements are arrayed and transformed through meditative stability before being offered to the visualised deities and enjoyed by them. The ceremony concludes with the prayers and benedictions which dedicate the merit of the practice for the sake of all beings.
The chapter ends with a synopsis of the basic elements necessary for attainment through the feast-offerings, namely meditative stability (v.26), the appropriate location and implements (v.27), and the specific time for its performance (v.28).
CHAPTER TWELVE: ATTAINMENT OF THE FEAST OFFERINGS
The purpose of this chapter is to disclose the particular aspects of the maôçala of feast-offerings, namely, the meditative stabilities associated with the visualised deities and offerings, and the attainments of the awareness-holders which ensue.
Having explained the maôçala of feast-offerings, Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then enters the meditative stability of "the array of ornaments", which are enjoyed by buddhas and sentient beings and are laid out within the maôçala of feast-offerings (v.1).
This chapter begins with a general discussion of the meditative stabilities connected with the feast-offerings and their beneficial attributes: Spiritual accomplishments are achieved through the various meditative stabilities which percieve all things as the Magical Net (v.2). These include: the meditative stability focussing on the meditational deities’ dance-steps and hand-gestures, which confer the benefit of unimpeded motion (v.3), the meditative stability focussing on the seals of their songs, which confer the benefit of unimpeded sound (v.4), the meditative stability focussing on the seals of their ornaments and raiment, which confer the benefit of protection, along with the major and minor physical marks of the buddha-body (v.5), the meditative stability focussing on their food and drink which confers the benefit of buddha-body and the nectar of buddha-speech (v.6), and the meditative stability focussing on the seals of sexual yoga and forceful "liberation", which confer all accomplishments and enlightened activities (v.7).
By retaining the correct view concerning the coalescence of appearance and emptinesss, and practising the generation and perfection stages of meditation, the yogin will gradually attain the mature status of an awareness-holder and then be confirmed on the buddha-level (vv.8-9). Thus, the results achieved through the performance of the feast-offerings and their meditative stabilities are known as the attainment of the four classes of awareness-holder, which are to be differentiated in terms of their emanational birth, and their association with provisional results and levels, including the ten transcendent perfections (vv.10-11), and with the conclusive attainment of the buddha-levels (v.12).
The chapter ends with a synopsis describing the all-embracing maôçala which supports the feast-offerings: By visualising and meditating on Samantabhadra and Samantabhadrï in union, which is the true nature of mind, the yogin comes to meditate on all maôçalas (vv.13-14), and thereby attain the accomplishemt of all maôçalas (v.15). Understanding all things to be the true nature of mind, there will be no defect with respect to the result, whatever the yogin’s degree of proficiency in the generation stage (v.16).
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: NUCLEUS OF MOST SECRET ESOTERIC INSTRUCTIONS
This chapter expounds the perfection stage of the path, including the Great Perfection of inner radiance, which is the culmination of experiential cultivation, bringing about the result of perfect buddhahood.
Having revealed the generation stage of the path of meditation, Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then enters the meditative stability which is "the cloud-like array of the nucleus of most secret commitment", in order to reveal the perfection stage. Accordingly, all things are revealed to be spontaneously present in the primordial Great Perfection (v.1).
There are two aspects to the exposition of the perfection stage— the first concerning the manner in which the secret truth abides in the mind of the spiritual master of the tantras (vajräcärya), and the second concerning the natural Great Perfection itself. Now, this secret truth abides in the minds of the diverse spiritual teachers (v.2), whose teaching may partake of diverse views, encompasing those non-Buddhists whose views are held to harbour no understanding and wrong understanding, as well as the adherents of the Hïnayäna who have partial understanding, the followers of the Mahäyäna causal vehicles whose understanding approaches completion, and the adepts of Kriyä, Caryä, Yoga and Mahäyoga tantra who maintain distinct understandings. However all these teachings culminate in the natural secret truth which is the Magical Net. In brief, this secret truth is fully present in the syllables and sounds of the Guhyagarbha Tantra itself (v.3), and its concealed and hidden meanings are revealed by the vajräcärya (v.4).
The exposition of the three aspects of the natural Great Perfection which follows is given in the form of a brief outline and then as an extensive exegesis. The former comprises: the generation stage of skilful means (v.5), the perfection stage of discriminative awareness (v.6), and the stage of inner radiance which is without duality (v.7).
As for the latter, the extensive exegesis of these three stages: The outer generation stage is that in which all phenomena, psycho-physical components and so forth are visualised as the maôçala of meditational deities (v.8). The inner perfection stage concerns the meditations on bliss and emptiness, along with their result (vv.9-10); while the secret stage of inner radiance concerns the Great Perfection and entails the recognition of inner radiance as the ground (v.11), the recognition of the appearance of pristine cognition in meditative stability as the path (v.12), and recognition of the supreme spiritual accomplishment of buddhahood as the result (v.13).
The commentator, having already expounded the outer generation stage, at this juncture provides extensive overviews concerning the inner perfection stage and the secret stage of inner radiance, which is the Great Perfection. The former includes both the path of skilful means and the path of liberation.
In the context of this perfection stage, the path of skilful means comprises the control of vital energy with respect to the yogin’s subtle body and also when in union with a yogic partner. In the first case, the yogin utilises the four energy centres, the seventy-two thousand energy channels and twenty-one thousand six hundred vital energies within the subtle body. The purpose of this training is to transform the coarse vital energy associated with past actions into vital energy of pristine cognition, within the central channel, where it transforms the energy centres into globes of light and thence into the meditational deities of the enlightened families. This practice brings about provisional results such as the supernormal cognitive powers and the conclusive result of the buddha-level.
The purpose of the second kind of training which refines the movement of seminal energy when the yogin is in union with a yogic partner, is to transform dissonant mental states into the path of purification. There are four kinds of delight experienced by the yogin during this practice, and these are differentiated through the degrees to which conceptions are renounced and bliss is present, as well as by their locations within the subtle body. This generation of bliss is activated by the downward movement of seminal energy, which gives rise to the perfection of the causal paths and levels, along with the transcendent perfections, while the upward movement of seminal fluids in reverse gives rise to the resultant paths and levels, along with the six supernormal cognitive powers and the major and minor marks of the buddha-body. This practice results in the attainment of both supreme and common spiritual accomplishments.
In addition, there are subsidiary instructions concerning the generation of inner heat (gtum mo), which assists the practitioner on the path of skilful means. During the meditation on the caôçäli energy channel which connects with the heart centre of the subtle body, the syllable A, located below the navel centre, is visualised as if blazing on fire, in consequence of which it melts the syllable HAÆ located in the crown centre, thereby generating an inner heat within the body. This warmth gives rise to the pristine cognition of bliss and emptiness, which acts as an aid to the two aforementioned kinds of training.
The path of liberation includes meditative stability on the apparitional meditational deities which transforms all conceptualisation into the maôçala, and meditative stability on emptiness or actual reality which integrates the practices of tranquility (zhi gnas) and higher insight (lhag mthong) during periods of meditation and post-meditation. As a result, both provisional and conclusive enlightened attributes are accomplished.
The secret inner radiance of the Great Perfection is then considered in three phases: Firstly, the inner radiance of the maôçala of the ground is present within the heart and crown centres of the subtle body in form of the clusters of peaceful and wrathful deities respectively, and yet these are concealed in the form of glowing seeds or seminal points which only become fully manifested through the generation and perfection stage practices when attained by the four kinds of awareness-holder.
Secondly, when pristine cognition is recognised as the path through the yogin’s experiential cultivation, this refers to darkness meditation during which the yogin assumes the so-called seven postures of Vairocana and expriences the various signs of inner radiance, and to daylight meditation during which he or she is absorbed in a non-referential meditative equipoise. The fusion of these two coalesces tranquility and higher insight, and brings about the cessation of coarse vital energy and the manifestation of the vital energy of pristine cognition, resulting in the attainment of the four kinds of awareness-holder (rig ‘dzin rnam bzhi) and the buddha-level.
This manifestation of pristine cognition occurs through four successive visionary appearances (snang ba bzhi), each of which has its own internal and external signs. In the first, the mundane body, speech and mind become blissful, radiant and non-conceptual. In the second, all things become apparition-like forms. In the third, all appearances manifest naturally as maôçalas of deities, and in the fourth, liberation from the snare of the physical body and its appearance is achieved, along with the twenty-five resultant realities of the buddha-level. These instructions of the Great Perfection are potently combined with bar do instructions to effect liberation in the intermediate state after death.
In brief, the atemporal maôçala of buddha-body and pristine cognition is obtained in a spontaneously present manner through study, reflection, and meditation (v.14).
The text then analyses the superiority of the natural Great Perfection over other teachings, and the worthy recipients to whom it should be given. The superiority of Atiyoga is known through the greatness of the individuals who accomplish it (v.15), and through the greatness of the path of Atiyoga, which is the result of all paths (v.16), traversed by all the buddhas (v.17), through which all yogins accomplish the conclusive result (v.18) and which is superior to that of the causal vehicles (v.19). In brief, there are no paths superior to this (v.20).
The worthy recipients to whom it should be given should be endowed with discriminative awareness born of study, reflection and meditation, and noble in their attributes of spiritual wealth. They should not fear the profound meanings, they should have renounced evil through their virtuous and noble aspirations, and be steadfast in their faith. Such individuals should offer their body, speech and mind to the spiritual teacher and the sacred teachings (v.21). On the other hand, the Great Perfection should not be given to unworthy recipients who would misunderstand it, act erroneously, or deviate in their vows and commitments, in their practice of the generation and perfection stages, or from the accumulation of the two provisions (tshogs gnyis). In such cases retributions are severe (v.22).